Plants changed rapidly during the PETM in Wyoming. The red line here represents rising temperature, and the plants under the high part of the curve are those that lived in this part of the world only during the PETM. [credit]
The National Post picked up a recent story from the WSJ and ran it yesterday with this headline: Kerry flat wrong on climate
It’s easy to say about events in the future that we just don’t know. But it’s hard to say that about events in the past. About the PETM, for instance. (Google it. Summary follows.)
The fossil record tells us that 55.8 million years ago global temperature was four to eight degrees Celsius above the before-and-after levels. It also tells us that carbon in the atmosphere was above before-and-after levels by an amount very close to the amount still in the ground today in known fossil fuel reserves.
The good news: It wasn’t us spewing excess carbon into the atmosphere all those years ago.
The bad news: It’s us doing it now. And it’s up to us to stop doing it.
The PETM – the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum – made life interesting for a while. And it took tens of thousands of years for things to settle down again.